Walt Whitman pupil Chris Beaumont is apparently one of the few students who does not cheat in the math class of no-nonsense teacher Howard Bruckner. When Bruckner unfairly accuses Beaumont of cheating, too, however, Beaumont begins to think that perhaps he should take the easier way out, too -- especially when another student, Ferdie Landis, offers him an "advance copy" of Bruckner's next exam.
Pam Arnold is thrilled when she is awarded a scholarship to one of the best art schools in the country. But when Principal Seymour Kaufman thanks Ken Dragen, the head of the English Department, for recommending her for the scholarship, he denies ever having signed her application form.
Walt Whitman welcomes a new civics teacher, Mr. Bomberg, whose previous experience teaching was in New York and New Jersey. Bomberg's approach to teaching civics, however, is to use shouting, insults, and physical isolation of students who aren't prepared for the day's lesson. When this leads most of his class to request a transfer en masse, a parents' committee demands that he be replaced. But Bomberg has a surprise defender -- soft-spoken Pete Dixon, whose own teaching methods are diametrically the opposite of Bomberg's approach.
Walt Whitman Principal Seymour Kaufman takes a personal interest in the situation of one student, Jerry Cates, who is a standout basketball player but whose grades have been tumbling, and who frequently falls asleep in class. Kaufman discovers that Jerry's mother has more or less abandoned him, forcing him to take on a night job just to pay the rent -- meaning that Jerry may end up in a foster home unless some other arrangements for his welfare.
Liz McIntyre is rotated to the "opportunity room," a kind of detention in a classroom setting. Her most difficult charges are Tamara, a dreamy girl who nevertheless excels at art; and George Badgely, who resents authority and is the most difficult student to reach. Beset with a room full of troublemakers, Liz decides to take up George's contention that teachers are the problem: she has the students help each other with their best subjects -- and tries putting George himself in charge of the class.
Charlie Morano and Abbie Domier confess that they have been married for more than four months while keeping the marriage a secret, having disregarded advice from Pete Dixon and Liz McIntyre that they should wait to tie the knot. Faced with the fact of Charlie's and Abbie's marriage, however, Pete and Liz now suggest that the newlyweds admit the truth to their parents -- whatever the consequences.
Feelings are running high between Walt Whitman High and its arch-rival, Daniel Webster High before the annual football game between the two schools. Whitman's principal and that of Webster are even considering canceling the game, fearing a riot between the two student bodies. Pete Dixon, however, proposes that the students be allowed to organize a "cool it" campaign to stress rivalry without violence. But he runs into resistance from Augie Cerutti, the captain of Whitman's football team, who is determined to win the campaign against Webster using any means available.
Someone has been committing acts of vandalism, such as dumping a bag of trash on some students during lunch, to call attention to the growing problem of pollution. The culprit disguises himself as "Paul Revere," and signs notes taking credit for the actions with Revere's name. Pete Dixon, however, figures out that the perpetrator is one of his students who holds Revere in high esteem. When Pete guesses the truth, the student swears him to secrecy -- but Pete has trouble abiding by his promise when the vandalism escalates to more serious -- and potentially criminal -- ...
Alice Johnson finds herself exhausted to the point of collapse, as she not only teaches class by day, but also spends hours grading papers - in between counseling students about the problems in their personal lives. Her problems begin to turn into a crisis, however, when she agrees to let the students read "Catch-22" before tackling "Silas Marner", and then is caught having signed a less than truthful note about where one of her students was after school.
Former Walt Whitman student Monty Harris returns after two years in the Marines to finish his senior year at his old high school. He expects that he will now be admired by the other students because of his real-world experience. But he finds that the language and the mind-set of the students has changed from what he remembers, and that their attitude toward him is different from what he anticipates.
Many of the boys in Alice Johnson's English class over-react to Laura Fay, a transfer student whom they find quite attractive. Laura Fay herself is a sensitive young woman who loves poetry, and who jumps at the chance to try out for a "College Bowl"-style competition between Whitman and other high schools. But as the harassment by her male peers continues, she decides to drop out of the competition -- and perhaps out of school as well.
Principal Seymour Kaufman is concerned about the prevalence of drug use at Whitman, and asks for suggestions how the teachers can help the students with this problem. Pete Dixon suggests setting aside a room where anyone who wants -- students or teachers -- can enter at certain times and talk freely, with assurances that nothing said will leave the room. At first the approach draws little interest from the students -- but then as it begins to show some promise, the school board decides it might want to shut the project down.
Pete Dixon encourages his students in operating a school radio station. But a feud with school board member Morris Henry takes a nasty turn with threats of censorship and to Mr. Kaufman's job as the students play damaging recordings.
Student Ben has a terrible stutter and although most are sympathetic he encounters occasional ridicule. Mr. Dixon tries to help but the arrival of an audio machine has Ben the subject of a prank and he wants payback.
Attractive, athletic student Tom causes a stir when he transfers to Walt Whitman. He's immediately popular but is used to coasting on his grades and now Helen is writing his papers. Mr. Dixon steps in to change things.
Principal Kaufman rehires Diana Brown who is returning to teaching after a bitter divorce. The guys in her class feel she has it in for them and Pete Dixon tries to remedy the problem. Diana soon has a serious crush on her co-worker.
Student Toby learns that he is adopted, upsetting him and leaving him with a desire to find his biological parents. Due to coincidence and wild speculation he decides Pete Dixon is his father. Pete must disillusion him.
Whitman High has a problem in Herbie, who's always looking to make a fast buck primarily by using shortcuts. When a fundraiser turns into disaster because of double ticketing, he's willing to let treasurer Bonnie take the blame.
Vice principal Casey seems to know who's responsible for misbehavior with Jason, Larry, and Bernie often in detention. A little detective work by the trio puts the focus on Victor and Jason wants to know why.
Raymond is a frequent and popular substitute at Whitman High with students responding to his entertaining teaching. He keeps students at a distance as he pursues other careers, disappointing Denny and angering Mr. Dixon.
Mr. Dixon gives his students an assignment to evaluate the school's departments. Most turn out positive but Larry finds discrepancies in the cafteria budget putting popular dietician Miss Beemer in a tough spot.
Howard is a non-athletic student who is assigned a woman's part in a play by Miss Johnson. Some students start to harass him for being gay and his friend Bernie distances himself. Mr. Dixon and Miss McIntyre try to help the troubled teenager.
Mr. Dixon is having his students participate in a mock trial and Val is excellent in his role as prosecutor. But when his father is in the headlines due to criminal charges Val becomes a target of derision by his classmates.
Alice Johnson is feeling teaching is glorified babysitting and wants to believe she's truly helping people. Pete connects her to a charity where she becomes overly involved in the problems of the Patterson family who start resenting her.